“Don’t do anything dangerous” echoed Simo’s voice in my head “we cannot risk anymore injuries before Ravenna”. He then went on to elaborate that climbing ladders should be avoided yet here I am like the local idiot climbing up 498 steps!
I have no head for heights BUT yesterday, without giving it a second thought, there I was gaily handing over my E3 to climb to the top of Torri degli Asinelli. I wasn’t part of a group, I wasn’t travelling with anyone else so no one was egging me on. This aberration was purely my own decision. It was only once I started the climb that the little voices started in my head. I hushed them with the thought this was after all great exercise (great leg work!) whilst simultaneously dismissing that there was a very close resemblance to a ladder!
So why was I doing this? Because I was fascinated by history of this most interesting city and the 180 towers that originally stood was so much a part of it. The Asinelli is the tallest of the 20 that remain standing to the present day and was built between 1109 and 1119 by one of the wealth Bolognese families to protect themselves from attackers by providing an early warning of their approach. I simply had to see the vista from the top myself to complete my morning meandering down history lane.
As I climbed higher and higher and higher – did I mention it stands 97.6 metres high – I thought of Aunty Nellie who climbed York Minister with Yvonne all those years ago. I remember her looking white as a sheet when she got to the top, I don’t recall how old she was but I am sure older that I am – so yes, I could do this!
The stair case is wooden and some considerate soul made sure there are lots of wider spaces which are convenient passing spots on little landings. I stand politely and indicate those who are ‘veloce’ (quicker) should go ahead. It gives me time to rest a little and get my nerves under control for the next bit! I hear the word ‘piano’ uttered frequently by several of the Italians – means slowly – and I agree that slowly is the only way to get down safely.
The tower itself has good ventilation so there is not the old musty smell and claustrophobic atmosphere that permeates many ancient buildings which is thanks to the openings dotted through the tower through which a very pleasant breeze flows at times. I guess they were to shoot arrows through in days gone by.
Finally rounding the last bend and climbing the narrowest and shiniest wooden stairs I find myself at the top. What a relief! The tower is situated at the intersection of the roads that led to the five gates of the old ring wall. The view is amazing and I can see for miles and miles – 360 degrees – the new Bologna is in the distance outside of the original city walls.
Hardly anyone is up here so I settle myself on a little perch on the ledge which runs around the top of the tower and look down on city life below. It is calm and peaceful, not teaming with tourists but Bolognese going about their daily business.
I’m so glad I made the climb – now for the descent – piano, piano!
Time is flying since I finished my contract with Lifeline Top End a couple of week ago. Nice little send off from the Board which also gave me a chance to say goodbye to some of key people who have been so supportive and I know I will continue to be in touch with no matter where life leads.
It has since been a whirlwind round of organising my affairs in Australia to run smoothly (I hope!) while I am gone. Plumber to fix leaking taps, glazier to replace a couple of cracked window panes, suspending Medibank Private payments for period I am away (did you know you can suspend for up to 4 years?), organize banking, insurances, rates, taxes etc – all boring necessities!.
On the fun side has been last moment dragon boat sweep training, meeting up to farewell old friends – mad rush to fit everyone in but I’m making a good job of having breakfast, lunch and dinner with different people! Might resemble a barrel before I even get started on all the vino, cheese and pastries in Europe.
Final English class last Monday for my fantastic students at Melaleuca Refugee Centre – sad to say farewell to these amazing people and my fellow tutors who all give so generously of their time.
Looking at range of TESOL jobs on offer in Europe – not yet decided how long I plan to stay – my assessor has spent a year working in Milan so she was full of helpful tips and hints too. There have been couple of interesting offers in Australia but not enough to tempt me to sign on the dotted line and pledge a return date.
Three days to go and I’ll be on my way. Stay in touch with my adventures through this blog.
When I said I was going on the Camino everyone told me that it would be life changing. From personal experience I can now say that the Camino forced me to slow down and provided the gift of time for myself. In my regular lives the chattering monkeys of my mind are rarely stilled as there are constant outside demands on my time and even through I might have the very best self-care strategies in place I never have a whole week or more to indulge just to my own personal reflections.
On the ‘way’ the only really pressing concerns are where is the next coffee shop/bar, will my feet hold up for another day and making sure we do not get lost. However getting lost is not a major concern and even the route markers seem relaxed. Yellow arrows and the symbol of the shell are placed haphazardly, but always in the right direction, on items that range from stone fences, the road, house walls, gates, trees, and more. Some are really easy to see, others are more faded and almost hidden, but they are there. Worst case just wait a few moments and someone else will come walking along and together you continue. There are also the occasional marker stones counting down the kilometers and as my feet grew wearier these become a sight to look forward to – some come decorated with evidence of past walker with blown out shoes.
The Camino trek sees us traverse ‘undulating’ hills (well that is what we were told but some are more like great BIG hills and then we had to get down the other side too!), beautiful shaded wooded trails and across streams. It is very rural, farming country complete with wafting farmyard aroma in certain spots. We share the track with plenty of cattle, a few horses, ducks and more.
Some of the villages and tiny churches date back to medieval times and the yellow markers of the way lead us down cobblestone paths right through farm yards and past front doors and open windows from which locals pleasantly wave and wish us buen camino. The Camino is most definitely not commercial and those who live along the route genuinely welcome the perigrinos and we do not feel like intruders in their lives. Then again this has been happening for thousands of years so it is no doubt just a part of their lives.